William F. Buckley Jr. was born ninety-four years ago today [Nov 24]. He started the Conservative Movement. The Conservative Movement elected Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War, freeing millions from tyrannical slavery. And Ronald Reagan won an economic war at home, and then abroad, teaching the nations free market principles, which lifted billions of people out of poverty.
God moves in mysterious ways, and reminds us, by having given us Bill Buckley, that each individual, made in His image, can move mountains.
Bill (I knew him well: I was executive editor of National Review and subsequently chairman of its board of directors; and skied and sailed with him for forty years) burst onto the American scene, like the Fourth of July, with his first book, God and Man at Yale, published in 1951 when he was only twenty-six. Bill wasted no time: the polemics began on the dedication page:
and for Yale
… in that order
Bill kept his priorities straight for his whole career—writing 56 books, 400 hundred articles and book reviews, 2,000 speeches, and 4,000 columns, more or less, along with founding his magazine, National Review, and Young Americans for Freedom and the New York Conservative Party and The Philadelphia Society and his television program Firing Line and The Fund for American Studies. With toil and labor he worked night and day. He was doing God’s work, with his own right hand—but unlike God, he didn’t seem to rest.
It’s not a stretch to say that Bill forewarned, in God and Man at Yale (68 years ago!), the end of colleges and universities, and education, as we knew them. With a few exceptions, Hillsdale being one, college education has completely collapsed. It’s mostly a package of woke, snowflakery nonsense today—with a $60,000-debt attached. In a day not too far away now, and right here in the land Bill loved, young people will stop going to colleges with their safe spaces, stop wasting two or four years of their lives, and engage in better pursuits—for themselves surely, and perhaps in service to their country and their fellow countrymen as recommended in Bill’s book Gratitude.
Bill’s best book was probably Up From Liberalism, which is a romp through the Liberals’1 giant sandbox, sand kicked exuberantly into their eyes—but only to scrub away their blindness. The book ends with a list of conservative proclivities and a paean to localism, which we might call federalism. “And then let us see whether we are better off than we would be living by decisions made between nine and five in Washington office rooms, where the oligarchs of the Affluent Society sit, allocating complaints and solutions to communities represented by pins on a map.” That’s still true enough to have been written yesterday.
Life with Bill Buckley was also a hoot. I remember a dinner with Mayor Bloomberg. It must have been the mayor’s first encounter with Bill’s wife, Pat, a formidable force he no doubt remembers—and if he doesn’t, he’s certainly not fit to be president. The mayor was droning on about the dangers of secondhand smoke. Pat was all over him, mercilessly—and having a whale of a good time. The mayor sought to buttress his case by quoting from a study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, then recently renamed, as Pat, er, forcefully told the mayor (Pat’s voice rising, the mayor’s stature shrinking), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Did he expect them to produce (voice rising higher) a result he didn’t like?
She cut off his arguments at every turn. Louder and louder. Bill, trying vainly to keep “order” (the mayor was their guest) was saying, “Ah, Ducky, I think what the mayor was trying to say…” “Bill,” came the response even more forcefully, “I can hear what he’s saying.” “Ah, er, Pat, the point …” “BIIILLL, WHY ARE YOU SUPPORTING HIS RIDICULOUS POSITION?”
Pat was right. The danger of secondhand smoke was always overrated, and still is, by the trendy medical community and others still—always—allocating solutions to communities represented by pins on a map.
At the end of Up From Liberalism, Bill wrote: “I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors, never to the authority of truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and Liberals at bay. And the nation free.”
Yes. But the forces of evil itself, not just of the affluent society facisti, are … everywhere. Even so, we can be of good cheer. As Bill said in 1959 at the end of his speech in Madison Square garden at a rally opposing the visit of Nikita Khrushchev (the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) to the United States: “In the end, we will bury them.”
And so we did. God does perform wonders. One of those was, ninety-four years ago, giving us Bill Buckley.